Project Runway All Stars Recap: Disco InferNO

Photo: Lifetime

The best comparison I can make between Runway and All Stars — I’m sorry, but if Lifetime doesn’t want people constantly comparing them, they should refrain from airing them in back-to-back seasons — is that it’s like seeing a musical on Broadway and then seeing it restaged at the high school in your hometown. It’s the same show, and you can tell the high-school kids are trying their best, but it doesn’t come close to the original.

And this raises the question: How much of the problem comes down to host Carolyn Murphy, exactly? She meets the designers at the Nine West showroom, and you can tell she’s trying, but instead of anything resembling Heidi Klum’s charisma, she speaks in a very, very slow near-simper, like a kindergarten teacher. She explains to the designers that they’ll be creating a disco party look (oh God, this will end badly) based around Nine West’s line of seventies-inspired shoes. The designers pick shoes, and again, it’s a schoolyard-style pick and a popularity contest; this time, Laura is chosen last. I approve.

“I grew up behind the Iron Curtain,” says Uli as the designers sketch. “I think my disco was … different than everyone else’s.” Fair point! Casanova announces his plans to knit a spider web for his design, which is the best news I’ve heard all episode. After a quick jaunt to Mood (where Andrae looks for fabrics with “a lot of vocabulary”), it’s straight to work, since this is a one-day challenge. Kayne wins the distinction of being the first person in several seasons to say “palazzo pants” out loud. Suede talks optimistically about how excited he is to incorporate the feedback the judges gave him last week; some might assume that his chipper voice-over is a sign that he’ll be going home this week, but I am immune to your tricks, All Stars producers.

Joanna shows up for her visit and jokes that she’s the only person in the room who really remembers the seventies, even though she calls it “the decade that fashion forgot.” She poses a lot of thoughtful questions — most of which have to do with whether the designers’ work is, in fact, representative of the seventies — and announces that hearing the word blazer makes her “shrivel up a little.” Andrae is making a coat out of what Joanna calls “pan-scrubbing fabric,” which is a perfect, hilarious descriptor; Emilio points out that it’s the same coat Andrae made last week, when he was in the bottom three. But perhaps my favorite moment comes when Joanna tells Suede that his look is giving her “a case of white-man’s overbite” and he has no clue what she means. She leaves after telling everyone there are some really, really good things happening in the workroom, even though she seemed to find every single look underwhelming.

Right around quitting time, an agonizingly awkward thing happens: The designers have a disco dance break in a mini-kitchen with a disco ball in it, during which only three people dance, and everyone else sits around wanting to go home and get in bed. After that, back at the hotel, the designers play a video message that Joanna has gotten Karl Lagerfeld to tape for him. The designers freak out, even though the message has the general feel of a man who’s been taken hostage and is reciting demands for his release. That’s sort of a shame given how endlessly quotable Karl is.

Then it’s runway day! Andrae and Kayne are both scrambling to finish their looks, and Ivy’s behind, too, although she has both Casanova and her model helping her finish. Down at the runway, the judges are joined by Rafe Totengo, who’s the creative director for Nine West handbags. What’s interesting to me about the critiques is that they illuminate just how confusing this challenge — and, frankly, most challenges — must be to the designers. Was the goal to showcase the shoe? To be seventies? To be seventies and disco? Ivy’s look wasn’t seventies at all, but it matched the shoes — is that why she was in the top three?

At any rate, questions of fairness don’t have much of an impact here: Wendy’s outfit is a proper hot mess, and she’s sent home, a huge surprise given how cocky she was going in to the competition. Uli’s white, sequined minidress gave her the win, although several other strong looks were left out of the top three entirely.

Click through the slideshow to see all of this week’s looks! Which were your favorites?

Project Runway All Stars Recap: Disco InferNO